The Mystic Middle East, home of Arabian nights and the Eastern promise, belies the true nature of the simple honest food of the region. Far from ‘exotic’ as the Persian names suggest, this cuisine is so much more about simple and uncomplicated flavours and often overlooked. Middle Eastern dishes principally originate from Lebanon, Morocco, Turkey, and Persia. It is also the birthplace of wheat, barley, pistachios, dates, figs and of course the jewel in the crown – pomegranates. The practice of fermentation of dough for bread also started in this region and led to the creation of the earliest form of leavened bread.
There is a common misconception that Middle Eastern food is ‘spicy’ yet this region of cooking uses no or little chilli in food, instead relying on black pepper and garlic as the heat form. Non heating bearing spices are an important part of Middle Eastern cooking, especially Cardamom, saffron, Cinnamon and cumin, as these are responsible for giving the food its depth of flavour. Nuts are also used extensively, particularly almonds, pistachios and walnuts, adding texture but also providing plenty of nutrients, vitamins and good fats (perhaps not so much in the deliciously sweet treat Baklava)
Dates are widely known for aiding digestive problems. They are rich in soluble and insoluble fibre, often consumed to help relieve constipation. Yet did you know that dates have many other health benefits?
- Dates are full of potassium which is brilliant for our nervous system. They are cholesterol free and help to lower our cholesterol. This in turn keeps our heart healthy and reduces the risk of stroke.
- They are a natural energy booster, as they contain natural sugars. When having an afternoon ‘slump’ snack on some dates for a low calorie snack.
- They are loaded with vitamins such as vitamin B1, B2, B3 and B5 along with vitamin A1 and C. This means you get receive your daily dose of a number of vitamins just from eating a few dates.
- Dates contain iron, so brilliant to treat and prevent anemia.
When added to a chicken tagine, cooked on a slow heat, they provide a delicious subtle sweet flavour into the dish, giving you that melt in the mouth texture and gentle aromatic finish.
Our Middle Eastern cookery class is a brilliant way to learn how to blend an array of aromatic spices to create authentic dishes such as Moroccan Couscous with Apricots, Lebanese Kibbeh, and Chicken Tagine with Dates and Almonds. The class will teach you the perfect menu to create a feast for friends, a dinner party, or even simple mid-week suppers, creating a wonderful sense of occasion. Middle Eastern cuisine is amongst my favourite food, the use of such simple spices, yet produces an array of enchanting flavours unlike any other that are incredibly tasty and flavoursome. Come and join us on our next class and be prepared to celebrate such beautiful flavours from so many cultures in one simple menu.
Kumud Gandhi is a Nutritional Food Scientist bestselling Author, Broadcaster, and Keynote Speaker on the subject of nutritional health for productivity & performance in the workplace. In 2010 Kumud founded ‘The Cooking Academy’ a cookery school that focusses on cooking for nutritional health and wellbeing. Kumud regularly presents to international audiences on a variety of topics such as ‘Eating for Immunity and a Lifetime of Wellness’. She is an expert in the field of Wellness in the Workplace and works with organizations to create transformational change in employee health & well-being through nutrition and health coaching.